If the fall season on display six months ago was all about Michael Jackson -- extreme shoulder-padded 1980s -- then spring is about the deconstructed, ripped and slashed, ugly/pretty anti-fashion 1980s that was ushered in by Comme des Garcons, Yohji Yamamoto and other Japanese designers.
During the just concluded New York Fashion Week, Marc Jacobs referenced the mood most faithfully with his extravaganza of underwear as outerwear, gender-bending ruffle-trimmed pinstripe jackets, and clownish playsuits with harlequin cutouts.
Elsewhere, the look was more sexy -- zippered and slashed crepe sheath dresses and ripped cashmere sweaters at Michael Kors; softly sculptural, asymmetrically draped dresses and cone-shaped skirts at Narciso Rodriguez; Army jackets, windbreakers, sweat shirts and white poplin button-downs remade into skirts and dresses at Alexander Wang and Proenza Schouler.
Designers made ample use of sheer fabric insets, panels and layers on the runway. Inspired by the elements, Donna Karan sent out slip skirts and body-clinging tops in stormy-colored, whisper-weight layers of gauze, and dresses draped in cloud-like whirls of tulle. Ralph Lauren layered featherweight, sheer white organdy trench coats and shirts over linen vests, pants and a double-layer cotton organdy pleated skirt.
Vera Wang's collection of darkly romantic sheer layers, paired with candied jeweled bibs and spidery chain necklaces was more rock 'n' roll. A black gazar tuxedo vest was an ingenious piece, worn with a charcoal T-shirt and a sheer black organza skirt. Underneath, the model wore a pair of charcoal athletic shorts, similar to Spanx.
With all the sheer fabrics this season, we've seen Spanx-like foundations in several collections, including DKNY. (Spanx as outerwear -- we'll believe it when we see it.)
ARTS AND CRAFTS
Maybe it's a reaction against L.A.'s jeans and T-shirt culture, but Pasadena sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte have ushered in an era of high craft in fashion.
Rodarte's cobwebby dresses -- collages of burnt plaid cheesecloth, sandpapered silk, leather and lace -- and woven leather braid skirts and vests, were a marvel. (Phillip Lim's take on the collage dress was more commercial, with sculptural accordion pleating, draped lace and sequin panels.)
Unusual fabric treatments and woven effects are part of the trend, too. Carolina Herrera offered a sinewy, rope weave vest; Chado Ralph Rucci, a braided leather jacket with tassels at the hem; and Diane von Furstenberg, a black macrame coat.
L.A. designer Juan Carlos Obando's rust-colored silk, slit-front skirts and sculpted jackets were broiled and waxed to make them look as if they had been weathered by the desert sun, and his short dresses were covered in curving micro pleats in desert hues. Koi Suwannagate, also of Los Angeles, covered dresses and knits in handmade organza flowers and embroidered lotus flower scenes.
COLOR AND SHINE
While designers may be taking inspiration from the deconstructed, black-and-white anti-fashion of the 1980s, they aren't forgetting what sells -- color and shine.
Nearly every collection had at least one piece with a dusting of sequins (DKNY's sequined garden floral boyfriend jacket, Phillip Lim's sequined coat dress, Michael Kors' inkblot sequin shift), proving that the love affair with sparkle is not ending any time soon.
This season also saw a revolution in prints, as young designers such as Thakoon Panichgul, Peter Som, Proenza Schouler and Jason Wu experimented with dip-dyed, bleeding floral, digitized animal spot and Rorschach-like prints to beautiful effect.
As for color, enjoy the neon brights now, while you can. Come spring, when all the new clothes we've seen this week will be in stores, those colors will be but a distant memory. The week's "it" color was red, whether cerise, lipstick or pimento.
Among red highlights: Phillip Lim's lipstick-red suit with a double-breasted jacket and fold-over waistband pants; Victoria Beckham's cerise double crepe, flared skirt dress, Badgley Mischka's pimento-colored linen kimono jacket, Derek Lam's red wool front wrap skirt with gold toggle closures, DKNY's rose stretch silk Shantung wrap dress, and DVF's red-tan, palm tree-beaded sheath dress.